Peter Rowley (aka Harrison Rowley) has played offsider to many Kiwi comedy legends, including McPhail, Gadsby and Billy T. His career spans comic and serious roles in 40+ productions, including voicing the dog in Footrot Flats: A Dog's (Tail) Tale. Rowley made his debut in landmark 70s sketch show A Week of It. Later he joined the ensembles of McPhail and Gadsby and The Billy T. James Show. In 1994 he got equal billing alongside comedian Pio Terei in Pete and Pio, following it with Letter to Blanchy.
He has the ability to be numerous characters all rolled into one. He’s very funny. Footrot Flats’ creator Murray Ball on Peter Rowley
Billy T’s unique brand of humour is captured here at its affable, non-PC best in this compilation of skits from his popular 80s TV shows. There’s Te News (“... someone pinched all the toilet seats out of the Kaikohe Police Station ... now the cops have got nothing to go on!”) with Billy in iconic black singlet and yellow towel; a bro’s guide to home improvement; the first contact skits, and Turangi Vice. No target is sacred (God, The IRA) and there are classic spoofs of Pixie Caramel’s “last requests” and Lands For Bags’ “where’d you get your bag” ads.
In 1986 Footrot Flats: The Dog's (Tail) Tale and its theme song ‘Slice of Heaven’ were huge hits in New Zealand and Australia. The movie starred the characters from Murray Ball's beloved Footrot Flats comic strip; it was NZ's first — and to date only — animated feature. Kiwiana questions touted the film: Will Wal become an All Black? Will Cooch recover his stolen stag? Will the Dog win your hearts and funny bones? And punters answered at the box office. This John Toon-shot trailer (above) doubled as a promo for the Dave Dobbyn-Herbs song to smartly leverage both.
Shortland Street is a fast-paced serial drama set in an eponymous inner city Auckland hospital. A South Pacific Pictures production, the iconic show is based around the births, deaths and marriages of the staff, family and patients. Screening five days a week on TV2 it is New Zealand’s longest running drama. Characters and lines from the show have entered the culture, most famously, "you're not in Guatemala now, Dr Ropata!". This 2007 promo, set to the theme song, collects together highlights from the first 15 years of the show.
This posthumous series — produced by Ginette McDonald — collects segments from Billy T’s long running skit based comedy series. Some of his most cherished creations are here: the giggling Te News newsreader, Cuzzy in his black shorts, and the chief bemused by Captain Cook. Support comes from a seasoned cast including Peter Rowley, David Telford and Roy Billing (with cameos from Bob Jones and Barry Crump). Some of these skits are essentially elaborate setups for one line jokes but Billy T’s infectious warmth and good humour inevitably carry the day.
“The funniest, liveliest, most exuberant film ever made in New Zealand”. So said critic Nicholas Reid, after Came a Hot Friday became a local hit in 1985. And Reid may still be on the money. Though Billy T’s loony Mexican-Māori cowboy is beloved by fans, he is but one eccentric here among many — as two scheming conmen hit town, to encounter bookies, boozers, country hicks, nasty crim Marshall Napier, and Prince Tui Teka on saxophone. Until the arrival of The Piano in 1993, Ian Mune and Dean Parker’s award-loaded adaptation was still NZ's third biggest local hit.
In these excerpts from his last TV series — a family based sitcom — Billy T has to deal with his radical older daughter who wants to get a moko, a teenage boy trying to smuggle beer into his younger daughter’s birthday party, a defamation writ, and another tribe becoming his landlord. There are varying degrees of help from his wife (Ilona Rodgers), his aggressively dim Australian brother-in-law (Mark Hadlow) and his daughter’s painfully politically correct pakeha boyfriend (Mark Wright), as well as cameos from Temuera Morrison, Martin Henderson and Blair Strang.
A Week of It was a pioneering political satire series. This episode from the first series tackles topical issues — many of which will seem bewildering to a 21st Century audience. Ken Ellis and David McPhail discuss the great NZ work of fiction and Jon Gadsby presents Māori news. Annie Whittle and McPhail act out how babies are made; there's a Justice Department recruitment film; interviewer (and future Royal PR man) Simon Walker is sent up; the sex habits of the 1977 Lions rugby tour are covered; as well as the wisdom of sheilas riding race horses.
Following the bigscreen success of Topp Twins documentary Untouchable Girls comes another chronicle of a Kiwi entertainment legend: sometime vice cop, Taranaki bandito, giggling newsreader and crooner Billy T James. The film uses interviews and remastered footage to capture Billy T’s path from cabaret singer to fame, fan-clubs and eventual financial and bodily collapse. The documentary's director, Ian Mune, cast James in his Came a Hot Friday as the Māori-Mexican Tainuia Kid; and Te Movie co-producer Tom Parkinson played a big hand in making Billy T a TV star.
After turning "Jeez Wayne" into a national catchphrase with their hit series A Week of It, comedy duo David McPhail and Jon Gadsby continued their TV dream run with weekly sketch comedy show McPhail and Gadsby. This first episode from the first series chooses religion as the object of satire, which gives the pair a chance to dress up as angels, devils, monks, nuns, priests and Moses. The thematic approach to the series was soon abandoned in favour of the better-remembered style of topical news satire.
A Week of It was a pioneering political satire series that entertained and often outraged audiences from 1977-1979 with its irreverent take at topical issues. This first episode opens with a literal investigation into what Labour politician Bill Rowling is like in bed, and then Prime Minister Muldoon gets a lei (!). McPhail launches his famous Muldoon impression, Annie Whittle does Nana Mouskouri; and the Nixon Frost interview is reprised as a pop song: "Let's rip the whole world off". The well-known Gluepot Tavern skit wraps the show: "Jeez Wayne".
This 1995 documentary about New Zealand humour features classic TV comedy moments from Fred Dagg, Barry Crump, A Week of It, McPhail and Gadsby, Letter to Blanchy, Billy T James, Pete and Pio, the Topp Twins, Gliding On, Lyn of Tawa and Funny Business. Tom Scott, John Clarke, David McPhail and Jon Gadsby talk about the nature of New Zealand satire; Pio Terei, Peter Rowley, and Billy T James producer Tom Parkinson discuss the pros and cons of race-based humour; and the Topp Twins explain the art of sending people up rather than putting them down.
This episode from the second series of pioneering political satire show A Week of It takes a light-hearted look at issues of the day: sporting contact with South Africa, the 1978 election, traffic cops against coupling in cars, dawn raids in Ponsonby, weather girls struggling with te reo, and bread and newspaper strikes. Patricia Bartlett struggles with a French stick and beer baron Sir Justin Ebriated is interviewed. John Walker, "current world record holder for selling cans of Fresh Up", is sent up, and there's a racing themed "geegees Wayne" sign off.
This pirates of the South Seas tale stars Tommy Lee Jones (Men in Black, The Fugitive) as rogue Bully Hayes, who helps a missionary save his kidnapped-by-savages wife. Produced by Kiwis Rob Whitehouse and Lloyd Phillips (12 Monkeys, Inglorious Basterds), the film was made in the 80s ‘tax-break’ feature surge and filmed in Fiji and New Zealand (with an NZ crew and supporting cast). John Hughes (Breakfast Club) and David Odell (Dark Crystal) scripted the old-fashioned swashbuckler from a Phillips story. It was released by Paramount in the US as Nate and Hayes.
Letter to Blanchy is a gentle rural comedy co-written by, and starring legendary comedy duo, McPhail and Gadsby. Each episode is a self-contained story, drawing material from the bumblings of a trio of good friends living in a fictional small town. They are: intellectual Derek (McPhail), rough diamond Barry (Gadsby) and tradesman Ray (Rowley). The narration is a letter written to Blanchy, a friend living in the relative sophistication of Christchurch. The series was adapted for a theatre tour in 2008.
A TV network hires actor Kevin Smith to front a documentary about a town divided by an unusual discovery. Gooey Duck — a shellfish with reputed aphrodisiac qualities — has appeared off Ureroa. The quota is owned by a local couple but the rest of the town, big business, the government and the local iwi all have their own ideas. Smith's involvement gets complicated when he innocently consumes the mollusk while watching Prime Minister Jenny Shipley on TV. The medium, celebrity, small town NZ, gender, politics and penises are all satirised.
To mark its first 25 years, TVNZ commissioned independent producer Ian Mackersey to chronicle a day in its life as the national broadcaster. Coverage is split between the often extreme lengths (and heights) gone to by technicians maintaining coverage, and the work of programme makers — including the casts and crews of McPhail and Gadsby and Country GP. The real drama is in the news studio during the 6.30 bulletin (with light relief from the switchboard) in this intriguing glance back at a pre-digital, two channel TV age during the infancy of computers.
Letter to Blanchy was an old-fashioned back-blocks comedy centring on the bumblings of a trio of mates living in a fictional small town: intellectual Derek (McPhail), rough-diamond Barry (Gadsby) and tradesman Ray (Rowley). In this excerpt from the second episode, the lads plan a "traditional" hangi for local gentleman Len. Amongst much non-PC humour, railway irons are proposed in place of hot stones, pasta in place of pig, and a keg disrupts preparations. Hole-digging is much debated in the usual Kiwi bloke way.
This final episode of pioneering political satire series A Week of It ("NZ's longest running comedy programme - discounting parliament") features a three wise men parody (lost without a Shell road map); pirate Radio Hauraki; and a parliament-themed Cinderella Christmas pantomine (with McPhail/Muldoon as the stepmother). Jon Gadsby appears as Dr Groper, an un-PC GP; and God is a guest (for the first time on TV) at a Fendalton Anglican church. Comedian Dudley Moore appears in the 'best of' credits reel alongside Jeez Wayne and the Gluepot Tavern lads.
Peter Rowley and Pio Terei star in this 90s comedy sketch show. While Rowley is a veteran comedy actor famous for his roles alongside Billy T James in the hit Billy T James Show, this was Terei’s first lead television role (it was followed later by his own show Pio!).Each episode opens with a stand-up double act performed to a studio audience and closes with a song led by Terei. In these excerpts, the duo poke fun at racial stereotypes and create their own versions of well known contemporary advertisements. Just say ‘cheese’.
Letter to Blanchy was a gentle rural back-blocks comedy centring on the bumblings of a trio of mates living in a fictional small town: intellectual Derek (McPhail), rough-diamond Barry (Gadsby) and tradesman Ray (Rowley). In this excerpt from the third episode, Barry and Ray give Derek advice on how to get rid of a stubborn tree trunk, and plant the explosives needed to blast it out of the ground. In the Kiwi DIY way things are destined not to go to plan. "Where did the stump go?".
The last novel by Taranaki author Ronald Hugh Morrieson was his third to be adapted for the big screen. The core of this black comedy is an inter-racial marriage but the role of an English remittance man was expanded in a failed attempt to cast Peter O'Toole. Morrieson's view of small town NZ looks even darker seen in microcosm through the freezing works (filmed at the defunct Patea plant) as he explores racism, violence, murder, suicide and blackmail. Bruno Lawrence contributes a much-praised jazz influenced score (and features in the wedding band).
Shot in modern-day North Canterbury, Netherwood is the kind of back country thriller in which few of the locals can be trusted. Black-hatted drifter Stanley Harris (one time Shortland Street surgeon Owen Black) arrives in a small South Island town, and finds himself facing off against the local bully (Will Hall), the local beauty (Miriama Smith) and the local land baron (Peter McCauley). The behind the scenes documentary follows Hall and Black on a 20-stop 'Rural Roadshow', as they tour the finished low budget feature around the country.
Writer Stephen Sinclair’s directing debut was inspired by a Russian couple who sailed to NZ in a lifeboat. From there, he created this witty and unusual love story about Mischa (Stephen Papps) — an uncompromising filmmaker fallen on hard times — and his wife, looking for a country more appreciative of his art. But Mischa also has to reconcile his art with his humanity — with help from his neighbour (Stephanie Tauevihi, in an award winning performance). Meanwhile, The Making Of is a cautionary tale for any director looking to work with poultry.
Letter to Blanchy was a gentle back-blocks comedy co-written by A.K. Grant, Tom Scott and comedy duo, McPhail and Gadsby (who also starred). Each episode centred on the bumblings of a trio of mates living in a fictional small town: intellectual Derek (McPhail), rough-diamond Barry (Gadsby) and tradesman Ray (Rowley). The show's narration comes from a letter written to Blanchy, a friend living in the relative sophistication of Christchurch. The series was adapted for a theatre tour in 2008.
Pete and Pio was a sketch comedy show based on the talents of its two leads, Peter Rowley and Pio Terei. Each episode opens with a stand-up double act performed to a studio audience and closes with a musical number led by Terei. The sketches mostly star Pete and Pio together, with a small supporting cast. This was Terei’s first lead television role, and was followed later by his own show Pio! which also aired on TV3. Rowley has had a long career in comedy, most notably his collaborations with Billy T James in the 1980s.
A Week of It was a pioneering political satire series that entertained and often outraged audiences in three series from 1977-1979. The writing team, led by David McPhail, AK Grant, Jon Gadsby, Bruce Ansley, Chris McVeigh and Peter Hawes took irreverent aim at topical issues and public figures of the day. Amongst notable impersonations was McPhail's famous aping of Prime Minister Rob Muldoon, and a catchphrase from a skit - "Jeez, Wayne" - entered NZ pop culture. The series won multiple Feltex Awards and in 1979 McPhail won Entertainer of the Year.
With its mix of quirky characters, lush scenery, and medical drama, Mercy Peak proved to be a winning formula. Produced by John Laing for South Pacific Pictures, and starring a host of NZ acting talent (Tim Balme, Jeffrey Thomas, Renato Bartolomei, et al), Mercy Peak follows the highs and lows of Dr Nicky Somerville (Sara Wiseman), who leaves the big city after discovering her partner’s infidelity. Taking up her new role at the hospital in the tiny town of Bassett, Nicky soon learns that life is full of complexities no matter the population.